Category Archives: Annotated Games

The Milner-Barry Gambit Versus Killer Dan Smith

This is another correspondence chess game from the 1978 Golden Knights Postal Championship and another “What was I thinking?” game. Back then I did not own a computer and I did not have access to chess databases or chess engines. I did not even have a book on the French Defense! I was playing from memories of what stronger players had shown to me and I was winging it.

Prior to this correspondence chess game I played another Dan Smith in an Over the Board (OTB) chess game in Tampa, Florida and lost. My friends called my opponent in that OTB chess game “Killer” Dan Smith so I transferred the nickname over to this new Dan Smith.

One of the drawbacks to playing gambits is that if my attack fails I can end up going into an endgame down material. That is what happened in this correspondence chess game. Because I made a couple of missteps, my attack fizzled out and I went in to the endgame down a pawn. Another miscalculation cost me a second pawn and I resigned.

Mike Serovey


Chess Games for Heroes (1)

Last week I introduced you to the concept of Chess Games for Heroes: short games for use by chess teachers in clubs, small groups or one to one, where students have to guess the next move (or rather select what they consider to be the strongest move) and receive points for good suggestions.

Here, as promised is the first game.

Game 1
Gioacchino Greco – NN
About 1620

This is one of the earliest surviving games of chess. Gioacchino Greco was an Italian chess player born in about 1600. In 1625 he published a book of games, which were probably his opening analysis. Here’s one of them. Can you find his moves?

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6

Choose a move for White.

3. Bc4

5 points for this move, Nc3, d4 or Bb5. 3 points for c3 or Be2. This is the ITALIAN GAME.

Choose a move for Black.

3… Bc5

5 points for this move, the GIUOCO PIANO, or Nf6, the TWO KNIGHTS DEFENCE. 3 points for Be7 and 2 points for d6.

Choose a move for White.

4. c3

5 points for this move, d3, Nc3, 0-0 or b4 (the EVANS GAMBIT). White plans to play d4, controlling the centre.

Choose a move for Black.

4… d6

2 points for this move. 5 points for Nf6, the best move, attacking e4. 3 points for Qe7 or Bb6.

Choose a move for White.

5. d4

5 points for this move. 3 points for 0-0, d3 or b4. White has two strong pawns in the centre.

5… exd4

Choose a move for White

6. cxd4

5 points for this move, keeping his two pawns in the centre.

6… Bb4+

Choose a move for White

7. Nc3

5 points for this move, or for Kf1 (it’s usually better to block in this sort of position but Kf1 creates various threats here). 3 points for Nbd2 or Bd2.

7… Nf6

Choose a move for White

8. 0–0

5 points for this move, d5 or Bg5. 3 points for Qd3 or Qc2. Black can now win a pawn but White is getting his pieces out quickly and Black hasn’t castled yet.

Bonus question 1. Suppose White plays 8. d5 here. Choose a move for Black in that position.

5 points for Bxc3+

Bonus question 2. Now suppose that after 8. d5 Black plays Ne7. Choose a move for White in that position.

5 points for Qa4+, a FORK winning the bishop. This is why Black had to play Bxc3+ after d5.

8… Bxc3

Choose a move for White

9. bxc3

No points for this obvious recapture. Also no points for d5. If you played anything else you lose 5 points.

9… Nxe4

Choose a move for White

10. Re1

5 points for this move, putting a rook on the open file and PINNING the knight. 3 points for d5, Qc2 or Nd2.

10… d5

Choose a move for White

11. Rxe4+

5 points for this interesting sacrifice. 5 points also for Ba3, stopping Black from castling. White has lots of good moves here: 3 points for Bxd5 (after Qxd5, Ng5 will win the piece back because of the PIN), Bg5, Bd3, Nd2 or Ng5.

11… dxe4

Choose a move for White

12. Ng5

5 points for this move, threatening to capture on f7.

Choose a move for Black

12… 0–0

No points for this move, which, as you’ll see, loses. 5 points for Ne5 (White can’t take the knight because he’ll lose his queen). 2 points for Rf8 or Be6.

Choose a move for White

13. Qh5

5 points for this move, giving White a winning attack.

Bonus question 3. What would you play if Black played g6 here.

5 points for Qxh7# – CHECKMATE ends the game.

13… h6

Choose a move for White

14. Nxf7

5 points for this move, giving White a winning attack. 2 points for Bxf7+.

14… Qf6

Choose a move for White

15. Nxh6+

5 points for this move, a DOUBLE CHECK leading to mate. 2 points for Bg5 which wins the queen.

15… Kh8

Choose a move for White

16. Nf7+

5 points for this move. 2 points for Nf5+, Ng4+ or Ng8+, which take longer.

16… Kg8

Choose a move for White

17. Qh8#

5 points for this move: it’s CHECKMATE!

Black played a natural but not very good move on move 4 after which he was always in trouble. White occupied the centre with his pawns, developed his knights and one of his bishops quickly (he didn’t need to use the other bishop), castled quickly and put his rook on the open e-file. Black tried to castle to make his king safe but this gave White a winning attack.

Richard James


Another Comedy of Errors from 1978

This is another correspondence chess game from the 1978 Golden Knights Postal Championship, Round 1. It seems that I had three periods in my chess career in which I was experimenting with irregular openings. My first one was in 1978. My second one was during the 1980’s while I was stationed in Germany and the third one was after my discharge from the US Army.

Both side made errors in this correspondence chess game, but mine were more often and more serious. Looking at this correspondence chess game causes me to ask, “What was I thinking back then?”.

This correspondence chess game was played long before I had access to chess databases or engines to help me to play better. I was a private in the US Army and I had no real chess books or equipment at the time that I started this correspondence chess game. Now, I would not be so on my own and I would not misplay a King and pawn endgame the way that I did in this correspondence chess game.

Although I have an ECO code for this chess opening, I have been unable to find a name for it. My notes below explain this disaster well enough.

Mike Serovey


6 Naka Dragon Yugoslavs

Some wicked complicated positions from the Yugoslav Dragon Sicilian, with Nakamura playing both sides of the position. Analysis for the Robson game from Hiarcs Chess, whilst the other games have notations of other games included from Chess King 2. Fierce fighting and victories on both sides of the position lend me to believe the position ( hence the opening) is only for the most aggressive player personality.
It is not the case that once the position is “stabilized” Black has nothing to fear, nor White similarly. Not sure actually if in any of these positions you can state there is a “stablized” position, it is so dynamic for both sides.
If you plan on playing the Dragon be prepared for a short or a long struggle, and have gotten plenty of rest beforehand.

Ed Rosenthal


Paignton Challengers A 1974 Part 5

Going into the last round I was on 4½/6, with a chance of first place if I won my final game. I found myself playing White against one of the highest graded players in my section and a QGD Exchange Variation soon appeared on the board.

1. d4 d5
2. c4 e6
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Nf3 Nbd7
5. cxd5 exd5
6. Bg5 Be7
7. e3 c6
8. Bd3 Ne4

You can do this if you like but, as you might expect, Black usually castles in this position.

9. Bf4 Ndf6
10. Qc2 Nxc3

Rather obliging. Bf5 was another option, but Black could also castle here, offering a pawn. Stockfish analyses 10…0–0 11.Nxe4 dxe4 12.Bxe4 Nxe4 13.Qxe4 g5 14.Bg3 f5 15.Qe5 f4 16.exf4 g4 17.Nd2 Bf6 when Black has a lot of play.

11. bxc3 Bg4

This is just bad. He could still have castled.

12. Ne5 Bh5

And this is a blunder.

13. O-O

Missing the chance to play Rb1 which just wins a pawn. Qc8 or Qd7 would be met by Bf5.

13… Bg6
14. Rab1 Bxd3
15. Qxd3 Qc8
16. Bg5

Another inaccurate move. I should have taken the opportunity to play c4, which Black could now have prevented by playing b5.

16… Ne4

This is just crazy. I really can’t imagine what prompted him to play this move. Last round nerves, perhaps? All I have to do is open the centre and Black will have no defence.

17. Bxe7 Kxe7
18. c4 f6
19. cxd5 Nd6
20. Nc4

Stockfish recommends the piece sacrifice Rfc1 here. Black’s best bet now is to trade knights but instead he loses quickly.

20… cxd5
21. Nxd6 Kxd6
22. Rfc1 Qd7
23. e4 b6
24. Qg3+ Ke6
25. Rc7 1-0

So I finished on 5½/7, enough for a share of first place. Four wins with white and three draws with black. In the immortal words of Mr Punch, that’s the way to do it.

Looking back at the games I was lucky that all my black opponents played rather feebly in the opening and in each case I was able to gain a significant advantage early in the game. Two of my white opponents played unambitiously and allowed me easy equality. Only in round 4 was I in any trouble, where I blundered a pawn and should have lost the subsequent ending.

For the first time I was feeling confident about my chess. A few weeks later the new season was under way. My first seven matches resulted in seven wins, several against fairly strong opponents. My next tournament, one of the large open Swisses which were popular in London at the time, saw me extend my winning sequence to nine before losing to a strong opponent in the second round. Although I’d cut out most of my blunders and was happy with my defence to 1. e4, I’d still lose the occasional horrible game to opponents who knew the opening better than me.

The question that interests me is whether or not I was a stronger player 40 years ago in my mid 20s than I am now in my mid 60s. I think players of, say, 1800-2000 strength are stronger now than then, which, given the increased knowledge of chess, is what you’d expect. If I’d continued to play regularly and take chess seriously I’d be stronger now than I was back in the mid 70s. But I chose not to, so, perhaps I’m about the same strength.

In a few weeks time I’ll revisit another tournament from my past.

Richard James


If It’s a Car You Lack, I’d Surely Buy You a Hadiak

My opponent is this correspondence chess game is from United Arab Emirates. I do not know his real name, but he uses the handle “hadiak” on  ICC. The handle, “hadiak” rhymes with Cadillac and thus it reminded me of a line in the song, Thank You for Being a Friend.

I won both of my correspondence chess games as White against him and I have yet to play Black against him. Right now, I am declining correspondence chess games on ICC while I get caught up on the 100,000 other things that I need to do.

A detailed analysis of my other correspondence chess game against hadiak can be found here

Mike Serovey


Paignton Challengers A 1974 Part 4

Going into round 5 I was on 3/4 and had white against an experienced tournament player who, back in 1962, had won the Barstow Cup, which appears to be the individual championship of the Civil Service Chess League.

He chose a passive variation of the Old Indian Defence which left him short of space and without any realistic pawn breaks.

1. c4 Nf6
2. Nc3 d6
3. d4 Nbd7
4. e4 e5
5. d5 c6
6. f3 h5

Looks rather odd: I suppose he wanted to prevent a later g4. Be7 is the usual move here.

7. Be3 Qc7
8. Qd2 Be7
9. Bd3 Nf8
10. Nge2 Ng6
11. b4 a5
12. b5 c5

Blocking the queen side, but only White has chances on the king side.

13. Ng3 b6
14. Nf5 Bf8
15. O-O-O Bd7
16. h4 O-O-O
17. Rdg1 Ne7
18. g4

The first pawn break.

18… g6
19. Nxe7+ Bxe7
20. g5 Nh7
21. f4

The second pawn break.

21… exf4
22. Bxf4 Bf8
23. Qh2 Bg4
24. e5

The third pawn break.

24… Bf3
25. exd6

Stockfish recommends the exchange sacrifice 25. Qh3+ Bg4 26. Rxg4 hxg4 27. Qxg4+ Kh8 28. Re1.

25… Qd7

Unexpectedly deciding not to take back on d6, when White would still have stood clearly better.

26. Bf1 Bg7
27. Bh3 Bg4
28. Bxg4 hxg4
29. Na4 Kb7
30. Re1 Rde8
31. Qg2

Giving Black a chance. There were several much better alternatives, for instance 31. Bd2, threatening Bxa5. Bd2 also controls e1 so there’s a second threat of Re7, followed, after two captures on e7, by Re1.

31… f5

Black misses the best try: 31… Qf5, threatening the bishop on f4 as well as infiltration with Qd3. Stockfish at first considers the position equal but eventually finds a way for White to thread his way to a win starting with 32. Bd2.

31… Qf5 32. Bd2! Qd3 33. Rxe8 Rxe8 (33… Qa3+ 34. Kc2 Rxe8 35. d7 transposes) 34. d7 and now Black can try:

A) 34… Rd8 35. d6+ Qf3 36. Qxf3+ gxf3 37. Rf1 f5 (37… Rxd7 38. Rxf3 f5 39. Bxa5 Rxd6 40. Re3 bxa5 41. Re7+ Kc8 42. Rxg7 Nf8 43. Rg8 Rd8 44. Nxc5+–) 38. Rxf3 Nf8 39. Re3 Nxd7 40. Re6 +–

B) 34… Qa3+ 35. Kc2 Qxa4+ 36. Kb1 Qa3 37. d6+ Ka7 38. Bc3 (only move) when Black’s defences are all insufficient:

B1) 38… Rg8 39. Bxg7 Qd3+ 40. Qc2 Qe3 41. Bc3 Rd8 42. Re1 Qf4 43. Qd3 g3 44. Be5 Qg4 45. Bxg3 +–

B2) 38… Rb8 39. Bxg7 Qd3+ 40. Qc2 Qe3 41. Bc3 Qf3 42. Re1 Nf8 (42… Rd8 43. Kb2 Rxd7 44. Re7 Qb7 45. Qe2 Nf8 46. Rxd7 Nxd7 47. Qxg4 +-) 43. Re7 Rd8 44. Re8 Rxd7 45. Rxf8 g3 46. Be5 g2 47. Bh2 Qg3 48. Bxg3 g1Q+ 49. Qc1 Qxg3 50. Qd1 Qxd6 51. Qxd6 Rxd6 52. Rxf7+ Kb8 53. Kc2 +-

B3) 38… Qxc3 39. dxe8Q Qa1+ 40. Kc2 Qxa2+ 41. Kd3 Qxg2 42. Qxf7+ Qb7 43. Re1 Qxf7 44. Re7+ Kb8 45. Rxf7 Bd4 and now not

B3a) 46. Rxh7? g3 47. Re7 Kc8 48. Re1 (48. Re2 Bf2 49. h5 g2 50. Rxf2 g1Q) 48… g2 49. h5 g1Q 50. Rxg1 Bxg1 51. hxg6 Bd4 –+ but either

B3b) 46. Ke4! g3 47. Kf3 Nxg5+ 48. hxg5 Kc8 49. Rc7+ Kd8 50. Rb7 +- or

B3c) 46. Re7! Kc8 47. Ke4 g3 48. Kf3 g2 49. Kxg2 Nf6 50. gxf6 Bxf6 51. Rc7+ +-

Would I have found Bd2 in the game? Who knows?

Black’s actual choice, though, made it easy for me.

32. Re6 Qd8
33. Rhe1 Bd4
34. Re7+ Ka8
35. Nxb6+ Qxb6
36. Rxe8+ Rxe8
37. Rxe8+ 1-0

I was now on 4 points out of 5, playing on board 1, and, for the first time in my life, in with a chance of winning a tournament.

My opponent in Round 6 was, I think, the Allan Gardner who is still active today as a player and organiser in Bolton, and is still very much the same strength as me. I started off with the Modern Defence, but my opponent, who may well have read Ray Keene’s Flank Openings, headed for a King’s Indian Attack rather than occupying the centre. I in turn chose to transpose into a Sicilian Defence, opting for the Staunton set-up which had also been recommended by Ray Keene in various contemporary publications.

1. e4 g6
2. Nf3 Bg7
3. g3 c5
4. Bg2 Nc6
5. O-O d6
6. d3 e6

I’ve often played the Botvinnik blockade, e5, in this type of position.

7. Re1

White’s plan is familiar against the main line of the King’s Indian Attack, but not really appropriate here.

7… Nge7
8. Nbd2 O-O
9. Nf1 Rb8
10. h4 b5
11. Rb1 a5
12. Bg5 e5
13. Qd2 Be6
14. Ra1 f6
15. Bh6 d5
16. Bxg7 Kxg7
17. N3h2 dxe4
18. Bxe4 Bd5
19. Bxd5 Nxd5
20. Nf3 Qd7

At this point I chickened out and proposed a draw, which was accepted. I’m probably slightly better here and could well have played on.

Richard James


Irregular Move Orders and Middle Game Blunders

My opponent in the correspondence chess game is from France and I do not know his or her real name.

I opened this chess game with 1.a3 so that I could avoid most prepared lines, prevent Black from putting a Knight or Bishop on b4 and to transpose into a reversed opening. I got an English Opening and then the Botvinnik System. Sometimes, I will open a chess game with an irregular or unusual move order so that I can confuse my opponents. I believe that Black was confused in this correspondence chess game.

Quite often, when my opponents realize that I am going to fianchetto my King’s Bishop they will put a pawn on c6 and try to clog that long diagonal with Black pawns. My opponent did that in this correspondence chess game.

I like when Black puts an under protected Knight on f6 because I can often pin it to the Black Queen and then win it. In this correspondence chess game Black broke that pin by playing 12.h6, but he or she then gave me a new target to attack.

Black fianchettoed both of his or her bishops, but then Black left the Bishop on b7 unprotected and I targeted it as well. Although the chess engines did not like it that much, I doubled my rooks on the f file. I expanded my pawns across the chess board, attacked on the Kingside and kept my eye on the unprotected Black Bishop all at the same time.

I opened the f file in order to attack the Black material that was on f6 and f7. Black moved the Knight off f6 and then back onto f6.  Then, Black removed it again from f6 and it remained on the rim for the remainder of this short correspondence chess game. There is a saying, “A Knight on the rim is grim” and Black does not seem to know or believe that saying.

Centralizing your Queen when the majority of minor pieces are still on the chess board is usually a mistake because then your Queen becomes a target for your opponent to attack. Black made that mistake in this correspondence chess game and I gained time and space by attacking the Black Queen. When Black retreated that Queen I was able to win a pawn with a Knight fork on the Black Queen and the unprotected Bishop on b7. Black resigned.

Mike Serovey


Paignton Challengers A 1974 Part 3

So, going into Round 4 I was on 2½/3 with the black pieces against one of the stronger players in my section. My opponent gave me the opportunity to try out a line recommended by Keene and Botterill in their book on the Modern Defence. The game would, like my first round game, eventually reach an ending with rook and 4 pawns against rook and 3 pawns on the same side.

1. e4 g6
2. d4 Bg7
3. Nc3 d6
4. f4 c6

Not so fashionable these days when a6, under the influence of Tiger Hillarp Persson, is often preferred. Keene and Botterill recommended a6 against an early Be3, but a6 in this position was relegated to their final chapter on the Avant Garde.

5. Nf3 Bg4
6. Be3 Qb6
7. Qd2 Bxf3
8. gxf3 Nd7
9. O-O-O Qa5

So far both players are following the book. Keene and Botterill gave three variations here, f5!?, Kb1 (the move almost always played today) and Bc4, my opponent’s choice.

10. Bc4 b5
11. Bb3 Nb6
12. Nb1

Rather craven. Keene and Botterill quoted a 1971 game between Adorjan and Jansa in which f5 was played. Qd3 and Kb1 have also been tried here.

12… Qxd2+
13. Nxd2 d5
14. c3 Nf6
15. Bc2 Nfd7

Not a very impressive choice. 15… Bh6 to pin the f-pawn, possibly followed by a later Nh5 (a sort of left-handed Nimzo-Indian plan) would have been more to the point.

16. b3 e6
17. h4 f5
18. Rdg1 Nf6?

Simply leaving a pawn en prise. I should have played Kf7 instead.

19. exf5 exf5
20. Bxf5 Kf7
21. Bd3 Bh6
22. Nf1 Nh5
23. f5 Bxe3+
24. Nxe3 Nf4
25. Kd2 Nxd3
26. Kxd3 Nd7
27. Rh2 Rhg8
28. Rhg2 Nf6
29. fxg6+ Rxg6
30. Rxg6 hxg6
31. Ng4 Nxg4
32. fxg4

Reaching a rook ending where White has a good extra pawn and every expectation of winning.

32… Rh8
33. Rh1 Re8
34. h5 gxh5
35. gxh5 Kg7
36. h6+ Kh7
37. Rh5 Re6
38. Re5

At this point both players had to calculate the pawn ending after the rook exchange. I guess we both just assumed it was an easy win for White. White is indeed winning quite easily, but he’ll have to negotiate a queen ending to score the full point.

38… Rxe5 39. dxe5 Kxh6 40. Kd4 Kg6 41. Kc5 Kf5 42. Kd6 b4 43. c4 d4 44. e6 d3 45. e7 d2 46. e8=Q d1=Q+ 47. Kxc6 and White should win.

Instead I preferred to keep the rooks on the board, heading for rook and 4 against rook and 3, although, with the black king badly placed, White should still win.

38… Rxh6

Reaching the first time control.

39. Re7+ Kg8
40. Rxa7 Rh3+
41. Kc2 Rh2+
42. Kb1 Kf8
43. a4 bxa4
44. bxa4 Ke8
45. Rc7 Rh6
46. Kb2 Kd8
47. Rg7 c5

Losing another pawn, but there was nothing any better.

48. Rg5 Rh2+
49. Ka3 cxd4
50. Rxd5+ Kc7

At this point time was called at the end of the first session. White had to decide which way to capture on d4. Every Russian schoolboy (or girl) knows that rook, a and c pawns against rook is very often a draw, and the tablebases confirm that is indeed the case here. Taking with the pawn should win, though. The difference becomes clear later on.

51. cxd4 Kc6
52. Rc5+ Kd6
53. Kb3 Rh1
54. a5 Rb1+
55. Kc4 Rc1+

The second time control.

56. Kb5 Rb1+
57. Ka6 Rb4
58. Rb5 Rxd4

White has followed a winning plan, giving up his d-pawn, and now, because Black’s pieces are further away, White can promote his a-pawn.

59. Ka7?

But instead White makes an inexplicable error. He was winning easily with either Kb6 or Kb7, but now the black king can get close enough to draw.

59… Kc6
60. Rb7 Rd8
61. a6 Rh8
62. Rb8 Rh7+

Another sealed move after time was called at the end of the second session (which must have been a short session after dinner). I guess we continued the following morning.

63. Ka8 Rg7
64. Rh8 Kb6
65. Rh6+ Kc7
66. Ka7 Rg8
67. Rf6 Rh8
68. Rf1

At this point the tablebases tell me Black has five moves which draw: Kc6, Rc8, Rh4, Rh3 and Rh2. It’s interesting to see why other moves lose. Fortunately for me I managed to find one of the drawing options.

68… Kc6
69. Rc1+ Kb5
70. Rc7 Rh6

The only move to draw.


I’d scored 1½ points from two rook endings in which I could easily have scored only ½. I was starting to agree with Ken Norman that endings were far from boring, and that playing them well reaps its reward.

Richard James


Good Luck Chuck Leached This Chess Game from Me

My opponent in this chess game is Charlie K. Leach. He signed every card and letter that he sent to me during our two correspondence chess games with “Good Luck! Chuck”, so I started calling him “Good Luck Chuck” after the movie that starred Jessica Alba. He didn’t get joke at first, but he did after I explained it to him.

Charlie has a brother named Jeff who has the same birthday as I do, but he is five years older than I am.

Charlie played an odd variation as White against the Sicilian Defense and he moved one of his bishops three times in the opening. However, I got too fancy for my own good and I blundered on move number 14. The move before was a bad idea for Black. From move number 15 on I was losing.

I was down a Knight and I was hoping for a draw if I could get all of the White pawns off the board without losing any more of my material. I failed to do that and I resigned on move number 50.

This event was a trophy quad that I won and this chess game was my only loss. I finished this section with three wins, one loss, and two draws giving me a final score of 4 – 2. I finished a full point ahead of the second place finisher.


Photograph of my correspondence chess trophy

Photograph of my correspondence chess trophy

Mike Serovey